Future Coug a shining light in hellish season

DESPITE A mountain of adversity, Washington State verbal commit Keith Harrington was a shining light this season for his woeful Northeast High team in St. Petersburg, Fla. His work on the field was only part of the story, however. His buoyant attitude was the rest.

The tumult at Northwest started when the team's offensive coordinator took a job at another school before the season began and six key players followed him over. Injuries then cost the team more starters as the season unfolded.

It was so bad that Northeast failed to score in its first five games and finished 1-9 while being outscored 367 to 81. The head coach resigned right after the final game.

Through it all, Harrington persevered.

The 5-9, 175-pound running back who will play slot receiver at WSU proved that in the Vikings' only win of the season, a 41-34 decision over Clearwater in Week Eight. He ran for 116 yards and four touchdowns.

"That was a big win because it was Senior Night and the last time I would play on the Northeast field," said Harrington, who has 4.47 speed and a 42-inch vertical leap. "It was exciting to show the team that we don't give up. That win is one I will always remember."

It's easy to play on a dominant football team, but Harrington's refusal to fold while facing an avalanche of issues not of his making speak highly of his character.

To help fill the breach, he variously played five positions this season: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, cornerback and safety.

Another Harrington trait that should transfer well to Washington State is his calmness during a game. He scored on a 60-yard read-option run against Clearwater in which his instincts took over.

"The play was Rip Max 23 read, and I just cut back and saw open field," he said.

"When I get the ball, I kind of blank out. I don't hear the crowd – I just react. It has always been that way for me. I guess my adrenaline is pumping so much. I just get the ball and go."

Before he resigned, Northeast coach Mike Jalazo had some very positive things to say about Harrington.

"He's special," Jalazo told Cougfan.com last month. "I've seen him make one-handed catches, and he doesn't worry about getting hit. I've seen him get a little crack and be gone, even against elite defensive backs.

"When he plays for our basketball team, he is always the fastest guy on the court. He is often attacking the basket for a layup while his teammates are just reaching half-court."

Jalazo sees Harrington being an every-down player at Washington State, rotating between H-back and slot receiver.

"He will go there and work his butt of and find his way on the field," Jalazo said. "The Washington State coaching staff is phenomenal, and I think they will realize quickly that a talent like Keith with his passion for the game needs to be on the field."

Harrington took this past week off from athletics and will rejoin the Northeast basketball team on Monday.

After missing two games early in the season due to shin splints, Harrington said he is fully healthy – he just needs a rest.

"I took an ice bath Friday and again on Sunday," Harrington said. "I've been lifting weights, too."

His grades are excellent – a 3.4 grade-point average – and everything is in order for him to join the Cougars.

Harrington said he has taped and watched almost every WSU game this season, and he used the promise of better days ahead to help him get through Northeast's issues.

"This year wasn't so good (for Northeast), but it was more of a pride thing to show people that I will stick in there and fight," Harrington said. "I'm just happy and blessed that I can play at the next level – not everyone gets that opportunity.

"I can't wait to go play with (the Cougars), surrounded by people who want to be great. That's what I love."

Harrington said he never missed a single practice his entire high school career, which may be the most impressive statistic of all.

Asked if he had a message for Cougars fans, Harrington thought about it for a couple of seconds.

"Tell them," Harrington said, "that we are building the program up. Go Cougs!"


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